Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., issued an apology to the people of his state Thursday and said he was “committed to regaining their trust” after four women accused him of groping them in separate incidents between 2006 and 2010.
“I’m a warm person; I hug people,” Franken said in his statement. “I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of these encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many.”
“I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly,” he added, “and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again.”
Franken’s new statement was released on Thanksgiving afternoon, hours after an article published by The Huffington Post detailed claims by two women who said Franken grabbed their buttocks during campaign events in 2007 and 2008. One of the women described Franken as “a serial groper,” and admitted that she voted for him despite the incident.
Franken initially responded to the Huffington Post story by saying “It’s difficult to respond to anonymous accusers, and I don’t remember those campaign events.”
But he appeared to change his tune Thursday, saying “some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that.”
The first accusation against Franken came from Los Angeles radio and TV host Leeann Tweeden last week. Tweeden said Franken forcibly kissed her while the two were rehearsing for a show during a 2006 USO tour. Franken was also photographed with his hands over Tweeden’s breasts while she slept.
On Monday, Lindsay Menz told CNN that Franken pulled her in tightly and put his hand on her buttocks while posing for a picture at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.
Leaders of both parties, as well as Franken himself, have backed a Senate ethics investigation over the alleged improper conduct. At least two female Democratic senators have donated campaign funds raised for them by Franken’s Midwest Values political action committee.
Some liberal groups have called for Franken to resign his seat over the allegations, with one group starting a petition drive to get Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to appoint Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison to replace him.